I was on my way to gym. It was girls and boys mixed, and no one seemed to mind much.
Nikil tagged along with me basically wherever I went now, even if it wasn’t his class, though he had few classes that I wasn’t in. I guess I could count him as a friend, but I didn’t like that he was soâ¦ forward, I guess you could say. I could tell Tanu didn’t like it either.
Every time she saw us in the hallway she would glare at me just like the first time she saw me. And it was frustrating to say the least. I would have to tell Nikil to be a little less friendly with me, since I really did not want any more hostile looks from Tanu.
Nikil and I parted when we got to the gym doors, to go change. I still could not get over how large everything was, but I guess it was necessaryâ¦ I mean, the last gym class we had there was a wrestling match between two guys, and one of them threw the other man the whole length of the gym where he crashed into the wall, leaving a fairly big dent. It was a little shocking for me to watch, but for everyone else it was normal and entertaining.
I changed quickly, as did everyone else.
My voice was a tiny bit warmer than I would address anyone else. For the most part, people were nicer to me than beforeâ¦ well in the sense that I had some friends, and everyone else that I did not know didn’t try to kill me or were not intentionally being rude to me.
We walked out of the change rooms where the gym teacher immediately told us to pair up with someone. I was thankful that Rachu instantly claimed me, not giving Nikil a chance to. She put her arm around me as I watched Tanu walk up jovially to him. She glanced at me slightly quizzically, as if to question why I wasn’t with him, and I smiled pleasantly back. Her eyes got wider, and more people than just her looked at me funny. I never usually smiled around people âthat’s why it was such a shocker to them.
We went to grab a medicine ball âthis was going to be an agility exercise. Sometimes, maybe, we would play an actual sport at the end of the period. But mostly we would do strength, endurance, and agility exercises. I didn’t understand whyâ¦
Mam:”All right, listen up everyone!”
The teacher had to yell since the forty or so students were all talking at once. It was actually a pretty large sized class.
As soon as everyone had closed shut their mouths, she began to speak again.
Mam:”Okayâ¦ Here’s what’s going to happen. Line up in two rows, a few metres apart from each other at least. One of you is going to throw the ball at your partner. The person is going to dodge it, then the person who threw the ball move over one spot. Whoever dodged the ball, retrieve it quickly then get back in line. Repeat that pattern until I blow the whistle. Go!”
She blew the whistle and we all lined up quickly.
Rachu threw the ball at me with all her muscle and it came rocketing towards my head before I ducked. It was amazing how fast everything came at you, and then how fast you could react. Before, my head would have been snapped off because of how hard the ball was thrown. I wouldn’t have been able to move fast enough either âit came at my head in less than a second.
I recovered the ball speedily, and then threw the ball at the next person. I almost tripped a couple of times surprisingly, though I guessed it really wasn’t that much of a surpriseâ¦
Though the exercise was repetitive, it wasn’t very difficult. True, I didn’t see the point in it, but it was exciting I had to admit. For some reason I found it somewhat thrilling to test how fast I could go.
This went on for twenty minutes or so. We were almost halfway done âgym was the longest period in a day.
As I began to wonder when exactly the whistle was going to sound, something made me freeze up âa bad mistake.
Abhi walked in through the gym doors.
Someone pushed me to the side, and I fumbled about, glancing back at him all the while. He looked around, his eyes roaming the roomâ¦ until they rested on me.
And then suddenly, as I looked away from him for a moment, I watched the ball come flying at my face. Then it hit, sending me flying back a few feet where I hit the ground. My head landed with a crack, and I actually felt the sting of the ball that had hit my face.
Everything was deadly silent for a moment until I heard the worried voices of people.
R:”Oh my god, Pragz! Are you okay?”
Rachu’s worried voice exclaimed beside me. I felt hands touching me as I tried to make sense of things in a daze. The dizziness wore off soon enough though, and I began to sit up wearily. I felt people helping me up, and I looked to see Rachu and Nikil kneeling beside me, concerned looks on their faces. I sighed and looked away, more than a bit mortified.
Nikil helped pulled me up gently by holding onto my elbow and Rachu had her hand on my shoulder, looking me over to see if I was all right.
P:”I’m all rightâ¦” I sighed, extremely sheepish.
Rachu let out a sigh or relief and appraised me with questioning eyes.
I looked past her, searching for him. But he was no where to be found âagain. Was I just imagining him now? Was I conjuring up an image of him in my mind because of various reasons I didn’t want to think of?
Rachu noticed me glancing behind her, and turned to look at the nothing I was staring at. She then turned back to ask me, raising an eyebrow.
P:”Did you see Abhi?” I asked quietly.
She looked, shaking her head, and that resulted in making my blood run cold. Oh no âI actually was going insane.
Nikil saw my wide eyed expression, and sighed, closing his eyes before he spoke.
N:”I saw Abhi. He walked in, doing his roundsâ¦ But then he ran out after he saw you get hit. The lousy, good for nothingâ¦”
I had a feeling I was not supposed to hear the latter part, and I quickly tuned out his voice so I wouldn’t hear the rest.
Rachu nodded, her eyes wide and an uncertain look on her face.
Mam:”Arora! What happened?” The gym teacher said impatiently. Everyone had stopped and was now staring at me, either with confusion, surprise, or worry in their eyes. I was holding up her gym class, and I had to answer as to why this was.
P:”Ummâ¦ I got distracted and got hit by a ball. It’s not a big deal âno one needs to worry about me.”
I said the last sentence a little louder, implying that I wanted everyone to stop being so anxious.
Mam:”Well maybe you should sit the rest of this class out if you can’t concentrate on our activities.”
I knew this was a sarcastic statement âsomething that I was not supposed to agree with, but I couldn’t help the words that popped out of my mouth.
P:”All right âthat sounds like a good idea.”
I turned around, not taking any time to see the teacher’s response, and made my way back to the change room quickly. I heard the whistle sound for everyone to start the exercise again just as Rachu ran up beside me quickly to ask me if I wanted her to come with me.
R:”Are you sure? Where are you going to go?”
P:”I’ll just go back to my dorm. I feel like taking the rest of the day off anyway,” She smiled at me, nodded, and ran back to the group. I was glad she didn’t press the matter any further.
Speedily, I changed and ran back up to my dorm. He had to stop surprising me like that. Or rather, I had to stop being so appalled when I saw him. My reaction was a little too noticeable.
The room was empty when I got there âAmmu wouldn’t be back for at least an hour or so.
I laid myself down on the couch, closing my eyes and pressing my fingers to my temples in concentration. All right. There were no distractions this time âI had to figure things out here and now.
Picking up where I left off before Nikil interrupted me days ago, I thought about my wrongs and his. I was no one to judge. I’d killed tooâ¦
And what about what Ammu had said? Was it really his decision? I had to ask myself if I really would want him killed for what he’d done, since if he disobeyed that would be his consequence.
And with a pain ripping through my chest, I realized I wouldn’t. It wasn’t his faultâ¦ it was the awful monsters on the council. They were ordering people around and if someone didn’t obeyâ¦
How could I have said those things to him? I was more of a monster than him. I’d made the choice to kill those peopleâ¦ To go after that girl.
As I reflected back on that scene, where I was laying in a pool of blood, the little girl reaching out to me to make the pain go away, I remembered with clarity how he had acted.
He had rushed over to me âto comfort me. He took me in his arms and hugged me, let me bury my face in his chest and bleach out his shirt with my tears, murmured soothing words âtried to make me feel better. He had looked out for me all along, and I had treated him likeâ¦ likeâ¦
All of a sudden I burst into tears, my hands gripping in my hair in frustration. What had I done?
He had been there for me the whole time âalmost everyday since he’d first met me. And what had I said to him âhow had I treated him? How could I have been so oblivious and stupid?
Tears streamed down my face as I tried to figure out what I was going to do. I could never ask for him to forgive me âI didn’t deserve it, not by a long shot. So what would I do? I shouldn’t be able to talk to him, to be near himâ¦ even though I realized how much I really wanted it. I truly was a monstrosity.
I tried to get a grip on myself; stop the cryingâ¦ I needed to be in complete control of myself when Ammu got here. I didn’t want to let her know my dilemma for now, since I knew exactly what she would tell me. Just take the chance and go apologize. But I didn’t believe it was that simpleâ¦ I just knew I wouldn’t be forgiven âafter all, how could someone forgive all of that? And I feltâ¦ like I wanted more. How self centered could I get?
So for the next hour and a half until Ammu got to the dorm I battled with myself to retain composure. I only managed to about ten minutes before she walked through the door.
B:”Hey Pragz!” She laughed. Through my numbness I looked at her questioningly.
B:”Rachu told me about your gym class.”
I sighed and looked away, rolling my eyes. I expected as much.
B:”And during that same conversation she wondered if we would want to stop by the store tonight.”
I looked, confused. Why would she want us to go to the store again tonight? Ammu answered the confusion in my eyes.
B:”I’m not sure. She just asked if we want to hang around with her a bit âprobably because she wants someone to talk to. She gets lonely and bored sometimes,”
I nodded, looking at her calculatingly. She smiled, and came to sit down beside me.
B:”So how was the rest of your day?”
Her eyes looked me over once, and I noticed her face fell slightly as her eyes stayed glued on one part on my uniform. I grimaced and cursed myself as I looked down to the spot where her eyes were locked on. Some areas of my collar were bleached white instead of the black it was supposed to be, and I knew immediately she knew there was something up. Why could she always find out if something was wrong with me so quickly?
She laid a hand on my shoulder, and looked me in the eyes sadly.
B:”What’s wrong?” She said comfortingly. I sighed roughly.
P:”Don’t be worried âI do this to you way too often, and frankly, I’m feeling guilty because of it.”
She shook her head fiercely, her expression surprised.
B:”Oh no, no, no, PragzâI like helping my friends. And I will help you through whatever is troubling you until it is over and done with. Is it about the ‘incident’?”
She referred to my last and only hunting trip as the ‘incident’. I shook my head, dejected.
P:”No, sadly âit’s more than that.”
Her eyes widened, and she turned me so I was facing her properly, both her hands on my shoulders.
B:”Is it Abhi?”
I looked away again, ashamed.
P:”I’d called him the wretched creature âwell I just realized that I am the wretched creature.”
I don’t think her face could get anymore staggered.
B:”You understand now âso you’re not angry with him anymore?”
I had to keep the tears at bay for now. I didn’t want to alarm her anymore than she already was.
P:”More like the opposite. I feel awful âI feel like begging for his forgiveness.”
B:”I don’t think he’s angry with you âI don’t think he ever was. Just go say sorry anywayâ”
P:”No! It’s not that simple. I think Iâ¦ want more than that.”
She stared at me, speechless.
B:”Soâ¦ what are you saying exactly?”
P:”Oh, I don’t know!” I slumped back into the couch, my hands gripping my face in frustration.
She patted me on the shoulder, a small smile on her face. I think she didn’t really know whether to smile or not. She was probably happy about my breakthrough, but upset about how I was reacting.
B:”I know everything will turn out.”
I looked at her, a bit doubtfully and incredulously at the same time.
P:”Why do you keep saying that?”
She smiled genuinely this time.
B:”Because I can sense it âI just know it will be okay. I wish you could feel the same kind of reassurance I am feeling right now.”
I looked at her, and she began to feel nervously, looking away awkwardly.
B:”Umm, wellâ¦ we should be going to see Rachu. Let’s go,”
She took my hand and didn’t give me a choice in the matter as she pulled me off the couch and out the door.
I didn’t understand how she knew this or what the ‘feeling’ or hers was, and I considered it for a moment. Should I have hope and believe her? I didn’t accept there was a chance, but Ammu seemed pretty convincedâ¦
We ran through the halls, yet again. It had never occurred to me before, but I thought maybe the reason why Ammu gripped onto my hand and ran her fastest through the hallways was because she wanted to avoid Nikil. I still didn’t understand their rivalry, or even why he seemed to like me so much. How could he be so oblivious to Tanu’s reactions when he was around me?
It seemed like almost seconds later we were in the store and in front of the check out, watching a beaming Rachu almost jumping up and down in place.
R:”Hey guys! Boy, have I got a surprise for you Pragz. Ammu and I picked this out for you and I know it’s going to look just gorgeous on you,”
I stared at her a little apprehensively. Oh no ânot more clothing.
B:”Well, it was originally Rachu’s find. But she showed me and I agree one hundred percent,” Ammmu giggled, looking at my expression.
Rachu took my other hand and led me over to a dressing room, where my mouth dropped at the sight of a stunning dress.
It was strapless, long, milk white, and had sort of a medieval design to it with black lace bows crossing across the chest.
My eyes widened, staring at both their glowing faces.
B:”Soâ¦ what do you think?”
I kept looking at them open mouthed for a few more moments before I finally was able to speak.
P:”I can’tâ¦ oh my goshâ¦”
R:”Yes you can, Pragz! We only picked it out for you âit didn’t cost us anything, as you can imagine. Remember âyou didn’t get a dress the last time you were shopping.”
I looked between them and the dress a few more times, absolutely shocked. I don’t think their smiles could get anymore satisfied and delighted.
P:”Where did you find it?” My voice was somewhat breathless, and I attempted to compose myself. I could not believe that they would do that for me, and at the same time I was angry at myself for acting so dramatically.
R:”I looked through a catalogue, and asked if they could do some changes on one of the dresses for me âI have a lot of friends in the business. Well anyway, it arrived a few hours ago. I’m glad they work so fastâ¦”
Wow. I’d only known her a week and a bit, but she was turning out to be one of my really good friends. Ammu and Purab, Ishani and âwait a minute âIshani! Oh my god, I’d forgotten all about her in my weeks of change. I wondered what she was doing nowâ¦
Ammu’s intent eyes brought me back to the real world.
P:”Oh, ummâ¦ I love it Rachu, Ammuâ¦ I absolutely adore it. Thank youâ¦”
They both grinned and vigorously motioned for me to go in and try it on. Too polite to sigh, I stepped in and closed the door. I stripped out of my uniform quickly, meanwhile thinking about Ishani and other things I had never thought to think of. And things I had missed âlike how Abhi had been there the whole time and I had been too ignorant and blind through anger.
I was such an idiot.
Precap:I knowâ¦ I was never comfortable talking to him. And now that I understand more, well I just plain don’t like him. But I’m the one in charge of getting everything ready, and he’s asked for a report. You know I can’t deny him.”
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